Monday, July 24, 2006
may the worriers become warriors
maybe when there are no more trees for shade or hammock
maybe when our skin has finally broiled into cancer under midday sun
maybe when north and south poles vaporize or are bottled and sold for consumption
maybe when more booms go bust and haves become have-nots
(maybe when we realize the haves were have-nots all along)
maybe when all of the deer/dears have been killed and sliced
for supper and wall-mountings
maybe when gas prices put all of the dealerships of the cool gas guzzlers out of business
maybe when hunger becomes something we feel in the belly of our very beings
maybe when mothers again have villages
maybe when “father” presupposes fathering
maybe when more men flourish than flounder
maybe when women matter beyond those moments between life and death
maybe when we regard children as evidences of God
maybe when our arms rest from casting stones
maybe when we feel the pain of our brothers’ wounds
maybe when we become “We”
maybe when we stop taking it easy and making it hard
maybe when war stops being the answer…
(interpersonally, locally, nationally, globally, spiritually, religiously...)
we will actually use our lives
and do something
that was inspired by a friend who sent me information (thanks monica!) about the nobelity project and film showing this weekend. if you live in austin, check it out. i am going to the 1:00pm show on july 30th. (you can buy tickets online. previous showings, I am told, sold out quickly.
Finally, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY!!! (my father, Naim Shabazz, turns 60 today!) the man who first taught me purpose and love, whether he knows it or not. i love you...
“The sea is actually made up of drops of water. What you do, where you are, is of significance.” --Desmond Tutu
Monday, July 17, 2006
For Nicole, who DIDN’T have a choice
my mother now vacillates between cutting her locks and continuing to let them grow. my children just stare and smile. my hair is an unintentional hit.
Blogger, for some reason, isn't letting me upload to the body of this post so you'll have to click the profile picture to see the new me, sans my usual fro.
the saturday before last, Nicole called me. a few sentences into the conversation, i realized she was sobbing. she explained that she had been on a new, more powerful chemo medication; one they’d hoped would kill the disease in her kidney this time. her new kidney is failing and the chances of getting (yet) another one are bleak for the very near future. so right now, as i understand it, chemo is the only option.
i immediately regretted not returning a message i hadn’t even realized she’d left the night before.
she has handled A LOT over the years of dealing with her condition but THIS, she espouses, is more than she can take. the shedding of her full, natural head of hair had fiercely progressed to falling fist-fulls until her sides were nearly bald. the last few years of growing out her hair while on the lower dosages seemed for naught.
what do you do for someone when there is nothing you can really do for them?
the only thing i could think to offer, in support, was that i would shave my own head; (at the very least) hoping that she wouldn’t feel like she was alone in this universe, though her world of chemo and kidney disease might imply otherwise.
i told myself that since she didn’t have a choice, neither did i. it was that simple. and with the universe’s infinite wisdom and divine timing, i sent her India.Arie’s latest cut, “i am not my hair” with the promise that i’d drive to Houston soon so that we could discover our newly shorn heads/newly freed selves together. It all seemed so simple in the first moments of encouragement and planning. but mercury and money and… i never made it to Houston.
so, since I couldn’t make it there, i am here… dedicating this time and this space to Nicole who, in the process of fighting this disease, happened upon this new journey of self-discovery. And to the journey that I, myself, discovered in the mix of feelings that happened as a result. my hair, like many, if not most, if not all Black women, has been significant in the conveyance and interpretation of who I am at different stages in my life. What comes through most prominently for me in all of this is that this haircut, for me, is a luxury. it still happened in the realm of a healthy body and the privilege that comes with it.
i keep trying not to parade the point of my buzz to passers-by because the frustratingly beautiful part of it all is that the cut is actually gorgeous. (thank you “gifted queen,” for the pre-cut prayer, and the amazing transformation of my coif.) with a nod and a “thank you,” i try to blindly accept the compliments because it feels cheapening to tell of Nicole’s call and my response with every “why’d you do it?” But for those who are STILL in mourning, longing for the mane they remember me wrestling into bun after bun, or the mass of coils that swelled into soft cotton at every sign of sweat and heat, i assure you… it’s just hair. it will grow back. maybe into a flowering long enough to save and donate as material for wigging. maybe for me to enjoy and appreciate in the push and pull of stylings. who knows? and if it doesn’t... well, i realize now that I am not, and never was, my hair; that i am now, and always have been, my hair.
when i walked into work today, there were plenty of double takes but most people said nothing. so the struggle with my vanity continues as does my commitment to equally understanding the discomfort and joy i feel every time i get a glimpse my reflection. Nicole had no choice so, in my mind, neither did i. it wasn’t brave. it’s just what friends do, right? It doesn’t change who i am. or maybe, in fact, it does.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
mercury has gone retro(grade) again, y’all, so i will be brief. that coupled with the full moon last night made for loads of dysfunctional behavior. so be merciful and gentle with yourselves; be loving and brief with others. if you take no other advice, my friends, take that. you’ll thank me later.
i wish my kids had had the knowledge of mercury’s retro and all of the shit that happens with energy and the universe that influences discourse. then in those pivotal moments, they could have offered, “mommy and daddy, please don’t fight. mercury’s in retrograde!”
i am grateful for times like Ramadan and retrograde to remind me to acknowledge that there is something greater than me in the universe. (not that waking up isn’t enough.)
for those not in touch with the possibilities/limitations of this time, click the link below. it’s a good thorough laypersons approach to understanding the effects of the merc in retro.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
shut yo’ mouth!
Yesterday, after flight delay (due to “mechanical issues”) and further flight delay (and all of the prayer that comes with it), i finally landed two and a half hours later than scheduled from my 10 day sojourn. re-entry, from bliss to banality, is a mutha. and, on top of that, not having regular access to email… oy vay! t’was like a glimpse of hell, i tell ya. but i'm sure hell is hotter than the mid-to-upper 70’s of oakland and san fran, which is a far cooler cry from the same perspiration-inspiring temps in austin.
[seriously, though…] the week was nothing short of wonderful. i flew into oakland on monday morning (6/26) and spent most of the day with sweetiebubu, who is still beautiful and amazing. his new work schedule intruded on most of our intentions but we managed to create bliss with every available moment... in conversation, in transit, in every gesture. we caught up with my daddy (who i resemble more now than ever... scary) and stepmother monday night. i hadn't realized how long it had been since i'd seen them; her, still quietly stirring steaming pots; him, still talking politics, breaking only for periodic prepaid legal conference calls and breaking sports news on espn.
tuesday i went by barnes and noble in jack london square to pick up a copy of walter mosley's book, life out of context. (GET IT!) it's a really quick read but IMPERATIVE for those of us perpetually in search of "deeper" meaning. while at jack london, i perused world plus market for a few things for bubu's meeting later that night, then spent the rest of the day preparing VONA.
daddy picked me up early wednesday morning for our commute into the san francisco. on our way to the bay bridge, we picked up a commuter, which is a neat (but kinda scary) system to take advantage of the car pool lane and help save on the bridge’s perpetually rising toll. so, at a designated location, commuters wait for perfect strangers to pull up. they get in (with a “good morning” or less, according to commuter etiquette) and are taken to a central drop-off point across the bay bridge in the city. what a trusting interchange in a non-trusting world. while the experience was really fascinating, our participation made me 10 minutes late. so i was late and disoriented when i arrived to VONA's orientation which was reminiscent of my first cave canem welcome circle. there i finally met VONA director, diem jones (a towering gentle man) and elmaz abinader (whose smiling, disarming eyes feel like home). the room was warm and aglow with anticipation. writers of all disciplines and desires.
our first day of the three-day master's suite series was spent with the coolest man of mystery, walter mosley. he primarily read from a manuscript of his forthcoming book on how to commit yourself to completing that first manuscript draft. the talk inspired writing activities lead by elmaz who invited me into spaces of brilliance i didn't realize i was capable of occupying. after two long and lovingly yet purposefully intense days of work and writing, our effort culminated in a friday night performance that, for me, was completely transformative. like i really had to SHOW UP! all of the groups, ours and those held in the genres from monday, were SERIOUS! i mean, some serious work was created and i felt blessed just to witness it all. it was the kind of experience that happens the way it does as a result of the love and synergy of everyone involved in the process... with ours in particular, from the voices of the "suitemates" to the direction of the final performance (a collaboration mostly between our fearless leader, elmaz, and my group 1 sister, erika, who was [willingly] drafted into the role). it was, by all accounts... amazing. not only my brief but invaluable moments of presence with VONA staff (elizabeth and mai) and faculty (suheir hammad, ruth foreman and willie perdomo), but i found moments of crazy love to my VONA (week 1) master’s suite brethren & sistren…
okay, so in all of this recap i failed to mention that on wednesday after the first VONA workshop, my father invited me to speak to the young adults who routinely/apprehensively drag themselves to the infamous hunter’s point district of san fran for job/life skills work. wednesday’s group of 12 ranged in age from 12 to 17. i am told they choose to come to this space but i can only imagine (by their collectively unenthusiastic slump) that it was more to foray and flirt with adulthood in a protected space than it was for the job skills and life work offered by my dad and the Renaissance administration. in case they hadn’t been told lately—or ever—my talk with them was essentially about the gift of choice. that there were still so many possibilities for them and their lives. that… i know it seems bleak on the dodge and shuffle from base to base, and often like there aren’t many other choices. but that they are brilliant and that their brilliance is one thing no one can ever take it away from them. (you know that one real thing you KNOW is beautiful about yourself. at least you knew it before some hater-spirit in the form of an underloved / underappreciated parent / teacher / sibling / quasi-friend / racist / coach / struggling-child-of-God made you believe otherwise? THAT thing.) i tried to inspire them to get back in touch with that thing. by the end of the class, they seemed, at the very least, engaged... at most, inspired. my prayer is to get back to them sometime soon. i saw so much of myself in that room; walking the line between here and gone forever, wondering whether anyone was listening. i hope they know, i hear their whispers… loud and clear.
on friday immediately following the VONA performance, daddy, the oldest of my 2 younger brothers (malik), his son/my completely adorable nephew khairi and i made the excruciating drive to san diego. there, my “other mother” (malik’s mom/daddy’s 2nd wife… did you get all that?) jameelah hosted a going-away party for our youngest brother, saleem, on saturday, in her gorgeous home. saleem and his wife, beth--who was simultaneously visiting her sister in Arizona--are moving to china on the 27th. (time to find the grant money for travel, y’all!) we got to talk to her via video-chat on my brother’s super snazzy MacBook. (just when i thought i was hip to all of the cool technology…) my younger sister, baheejah, is fully grown and gorgeous and managed to commandeer the kitchen which, under her leadership, produced a full spread fit for our departing vegetarian prince and his carnivorous family. this pseudo-reunion gave me a chance to reconnect with family like “niecey,” who i hadn’t seen since somewhere around the summer of my 8th or 9th year when she would tirelessly braid my hair into intricate plaits and/or foiled and bead-tipped cornrows; and friends like robbie who lived next door who i SWEAR i remember most toddling to and fro shoeless with little more than sagging training pants on... until now. (he’s 26 and fully-clothed, i’m happy to report.) i also met other people of their lives like this lovely young sister named sherehe. (thank you, saleem.) her spirit reminds me so much of mine. her artistic experiences nearly mirrored mine. i am so grateful. so grateful.
the party went late into the night on saturday. sunday, while malik took khairi to disneyland, daddy and i surprised my maternal grandparents, nana and grandpa. daddy laughed that neither their address nor phone number had changed in 40 years, since he dated my mother; which, in my mind means that getting lost in this world is never an option. i think i should sew their contact info to the tags of all of my clothes, just in case i get lost again.
it was a bit surreal to get this much, this beautiful a loving experience on the heels of VONA and bubu. daddy and i picked up grandma mary (his mother) and joined my grandparents, my mother’s brother/my uncle kenny and his wife/my aunt tonya for dinner at grandpa’s favorite spot, red lobster. (have you have the seafood feast lately! it’s INSANE!) bellies and hearts full, daddy and i retired to aunt pat’s in prep of our long trek back to the bay.
at some god-forsaken hour, we managed ourselves into the cab of my brother’s pickup and made it back to the bay by noon. bubu and i did our last bits of running around for his son who was also leaving in the morning for the summer trip out east. we all siphoned what we could from our last moments and …
here i am. back in austin, longing for bliss and poems and bubu.
WHEW! that was a lot. i am feeling much better today than yesterday. the depression has subsided a bit more. blood is circulating again. i had lunch with salihah and naim, which was great though they acted nonchalant my return. (i’ll catch up in stories and kisses tonight, i’m sure.)
so i am working toward my october 1st deadline of completing my first draft of my second collection, thanks for elmaz and my VONA group 1. i will likely not make it to the american black film festival later this month unless a philanthropist happens into my life in the next week or so… right… so i am also i am trying to devise my other plan of attack for these screenplays. any suggestions?
Ok, I’m sick of typing. I am grateful that you hung in with me this long, dear reader. Now that this is outta my system, maybe I can get back to shorter more timely blogs. (haven’t I said that before?)
Shia SHABAZZ (fa-evah-evah)